If you’ve ever had to plan a conference before you’ll know that because there are so many different components that need to fit together – balancing the requirements of delegates, contractors, and speakers – it can prove to be a very demanding environment to successfully manage.
To provide you with a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of 9 key factors that will help to ensure a successful conference. You can also find more on our conference management page: Conference Organisers | Production, Management, Audio Visual & Venues
- Determine the ‘Why’
If you do have partners, sit down together and discuss the conference’s end goal(s). Is the end goal to effect revenue? Is it to secure fresh clients? Is it to encourage publicity? Keep the goal(s) of your conference in mind while you make your way through the remainder of this list.
- Put together the wish list
What, ideally, is your conference going to look like? Note down all details like the location, the speakers, the number of participants, the activities, and the food.
- Establish a budget
How is the event going to be paid for? Find out about available resources that are free, including the possibility of donated space. Assess what participants can be charged as a way of covering costs and still generate a profit if making a profit is one of your goals.
List down the major cost items in a budget spreadsheet. Major cost items can include the rental of the venue, the staff, the speakers, the food, signage, printed materials, audio/ visual equipment, and possibly some other things.
Add the costs involved in marketing, including a website if that’s a requirement. Aim to build in a cushion of around 10-15% to cover the possibility of expenses running over.
Make a budget spreadsheet listing the major cost items of your wish list – location rental, staff, speakers, meals, signage, audio/visual equipment, printed materials, giveaways, and fun extras.
- Choose practically
The venue in which you decide to host your event and the provided services will obviously be a major cost factor. Attendance is also a major cost factor. As such you’ll want to find a venue that is either within the same city as the majority of the participants are in or somewhere that is close by.
Perhaps an ideal speaker would be Barrack Obama. Chances are, however, you’ll have to opt for an alternative that is less pricey.
A resort might be an attractive proposition, but does the resort have a large enough room to hold a conference and plenty enough personal rooms? Will the conference’s participants be willing to pay more for it?
You may wish to poll participants of previous conferences similar to yours so that you gain a sense of what’s of most importance. You can then make appropriate choices based on the feedback you receive.
- Work with vendors
Start working with vendors as soon as possible. In each case, make sure you understand what is going to be provided. Review all contracts and all cancellation policies with care.
- Find speakers
To find speakers you can reach out within your own network in order to determine the speaker(s) that are best equipped to help you in achieving the objectives of the conference. Obviously, those speakers need to be within your budget. Don’t presume professional speakers will work for free.
If you’re unable to find an appropriate speaker within your own network, you might consider using the services of a speakers’ bureau.
- Set the agenda
It’s now time to put together a detailed timeline that begins early in the day and concludes early (4 pm may be ideal). Within your schedule, you might want a variety of formal speakers, time for workshops, and time available for networking.
You should plan to serve food every few hours. This can be in the form of full meals and breaktime snacks. Once the main conference agenda is at an end, you may wish to host a dinner at a restaurant nearby (or inside your conference venue).
- Market the conference
Aim to use a colour scheme for your conference marketing and have a logo created. Implement these on your conference’s website which can be used for online registration.
If it’s appropriate to do so post details of your conference on websites that cater to listing local events.
For organisations that wish to send a certain amount of participants, you might consider offering a discount as an incentive.
- Plan in advance
Be sure to actively communicate with all vendors and participants well in advance. This way they will be fully conversant with what to expect and where they should be.
Just before the conference begins, tour the facility to ensure the staff is ready and everything is going to plan.
Once invoices start coming in, review each of them carefully so that any disputes can be resolved quickly and efficiently.